John Colson: As local fires subside, our politics ignite | AspenTimes.com
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John Colson: As local fires subside, our politics ignite

John Colson
Hit & Run

At long last, it appears the fires that have been explosively plaguing our state for weeks are abating, or at least coming under a greater semblance of control by the legions of firefighters who have been risking life and limb on behalf of the public (for which I thank them and commend them with all my heart).

Interstate 70 has reopened to traffic in both directions through Glenwood Canyon (though fire officials have been careful to stress that safety-related closures may occur), pre-evacuation notices have been lifted for some fretful neighborhoods, and the air seems a little less smoky Monday than it was only a couple of days previously.

Regarding I-70, it would be ironic if predictions of rain in the near future would be the cause of further closures, since we have been hoping for rain for the two weeks since the fires got going. But that’s the way it is, as fire managers pointed out, because rain means runoff, and runoff typically means rockfalls on steep slopes, which is precisely the description of much of the terrain the firefighters have been dealing with.

As a motorcycle rider, I don’t think I’ll be driving through the canyon any time soon, given the persistent images I’ve seen of highway lanes clogged by fallen rocks and debris — any one of those rocks would, if they fell on me as I rode along, not be a welcome adjunct to my riding pleasure.

As a lifelong (OK, only for about the past 50 years) political commentator, I have been intrigued by the parallels between our physical catastrophes (the fires, uppermost) and our ongoing political disaster in the form of President Donald Trump.

Just as the physical fires close around us appear to be slowing or retreating, the political fires that plague the entire country have been engorged by the spectacle of two back-to-back conventions (Democrats last week, Republicans this week) and an array of incendiary developments.

Two such developments have been the recent publication of a couple of “insider” accounts illuminating different parts of the world of Trump: former National Security Adviser John Bolton’s book, “The Room Where it Happened,” quickly followed by the scandal-surrounded “Too Much and Never Enough” by Trump’s niece, Mary Trump.

I just finished plowing through Bolton’s 500-or-so pages of self-aggrandizing prose, which spends almost as much ink and space telling readers how Bolton was the smartest one in any room he found himself in, as it does showing Bolton’s general derision of Trump’s intelligence (or lack thereof) and chaotic, inconsistent and destructive, to put it nicely, governing style.

I have only barely begun Mary Trump’s contribution to the political maelstrom surrounding her infamous uncle, but it’s already shaping up to be a more entertaining experience.

Both books, however, offer close-up glimpses into Trumpworld, and at least superficially seem to carry more weight than earlier exposés about our illegitimate president, such as “Fire and Fury: Inside the White House” by Michael Wolff, and “Collusion” by Luke Harding.

Taking a chronological approach, Bolton’s version of Trumpworld is about twice as long as it should be, and much of the unneeded material is, as mentioned above, shamelessly self-promotional and self-adulatory.

But it does offer an insider’s look at Trump’s flaws, lies, short attention span, nastiness to any who cross him and general dismissive attitude toward the needs of his electorate and of the world at large, to name but a few of his unsavory attributes.

Cumbersome and difficult as it has been to read, the Bolton tome is packed full of tidbits of great value to anyone interested in understanding Trump’s views and actions. But it would take multiple readings and meticulous note-taking to truly give readers a definitive, comprehensive rundown of it all, and that is something I do not relish doing.

“Too Much …”, on the other hand, is much less densely written, perhaps thanks to her training as a psychologist, and contains a recitation of family history in its early pages that is very illuminating.

For instance, she relates that Trump’s mother, also named Mary, immigrated to the U.S. from an impoverished life in Scotland, in what the author termed “a classic example of ‘chain migration,’” a form of entry vilified by Trump as president.

Or there is her story about how Fred Trump, Donald’s father, made his millions largely through federal largesse in the form of housing construction subsidies, though father and son have been equally opposed to paying taxes of any kind for any reason — an interesting set of contradictions.

Undoubtedly, both of these books contain fodder for future columns, if I can stand the brain damage of multiple close readings.

But I must note, here, that the juxtaposition of political bonfires and geophysical conflagrations seemed to be too appropriate to ignore at this point in our nation’s ongoing battles for survival.

That is because, in part, the fires in Colorado, California and other locales have been linked to climate change, a global menace that our dear president has only made worse, just as his monomania, sociopathic behavior and rampant insecurities have only made our political problems worse since he was elected almost four years ago.

Email at jbcolson51@gmail.com.


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